How to Develop a Career Plan That Moves You Forward

Be honest about what you need at this point in your career. I learned from more from my mistakes (have I told you about my brief advertising job in Chicago?) then the decisions I made right the first time; managing life's unpredictable gifts will make you a more empathetic, creative, and exciting person.

When my clients are considering a career plan, I recommend taking a week of exploration. When you're bogged down with surviving a bad day-to-day situation, it's easy to stop dreaming. When that happens, you lose sight of what will make your life better. You have to think differently. To be successful, you have to envision your life in the future.

Now is your time to get it done, and these five steps are all you need:

1. If money was no object, what careers would you consider? At this stage in your life, you must have identified tons of jobs that interest you. It's normal to have your interest switch from one career path to another.

If education and experience were not a barrier, what would you like more of in your life?

What are your professional goals?

Where can you focus your energy within your current organization if you need a transition?

Your career will continue to evolve as your life unfolds. Start with writing a list of those that interest you right now. If you believed that your career goals would come true, what would you do differently today?

Tomorrow's careers are still being decided, so dream big and explore.

2. Set up informational interviews to learn more. When I was stuck, I spent a few weeks researching how other executives balanced the daily demands of leadership in their home life. I picked people who had similar backgrounds and responsibilities as me-- I wanted to know how they managed their time and understand how their corporate cultures handled family structure.

Furthermore, I asked my existing network to help me save time by pre-screening leaders to interview; my network was familiar with my work style and could give me direct feedback on new types of company cultures I should look into during my research.

Tips for interviewing:

Do: ask people you trust

Do: research and have prepared questions

Do: ask how you can support their goals

Don't: ask to pick their brain or hide your intention

Don't: ask to be mentored, sponsored, or advised.

Don't: expect anyone to care about your work, life, or quest for balance as much as you do.

· Writing your list helps to document your interest from the get-go.

· Be curious! It's crucial that you include all careers that interest you, regardless of how others feel about them. Write what gets you excited – the work that you dream about doing. Don't limit yourself; this is the time to discover your passion.

3. What motivates you to move forward? After writing the list, it's time to prioritize! It's time to dig deep and figure out what causes your interest in each case. Be honest with yourself and identify the real reasons you're interested.

· Is it because of the prestige of working for a household brand? Or are you limiting yourself to paths of your family members who entered a specific career? Remember, this is what you want to do. Let go of family tradition and put your happiness first.

· What about finances? Money can be a significant source of stress. Are you considering a career path because of how much money it can make you? We all want to earn a good paycheck from a career. But think long and hard about making financial gains your primary motivation.

· Over your life, you'll spend 90,000 hours at work, do you want to be happy? The last thing you want is to be in a job that makes you miserable or sick. Remember the immortal words of the Notorious B.I.G., "mo money, mo problems." Check out my article on building a personal budget to see where you can cut back and make yourself more flexible by managing your expenses.

Listen to the Getting Unstuck with Meredith Moore Crosby podcast for advice on navigating to the next level. Set your goal and subscribe for the support to keep going!

4. Talk with your mentors. Company cultures range from inspiring to damaging, and what works for one person might be terrible for another. Don't get lost in distractions-- mentors can hold you accountable and focused on your goals. Ask for feedback and their insights on what experience, industries, and careers may be an excellent addition to your resume.

Don't have a mentor? Look for someone who has achieved the goals you are interested in pursuing to get first-hand advice on what to consider or watch out for before you leap.

5. Be innovative! Find many paths for getting there. Now, it's time to get creative. How do you plan on getting hold of that dream career?

· Use the internet as a reliable research tool to get started. Online you can find many options for embarking on a career of choice. Check out LinkedIn Jobs, Indeed, and Google jobs to set searches that can be sent directly to your inbox.

· The traditional method of advancing or changing your career path is to pursue formal education. If you have time, find courses and degree programs that can give you the necessary training. Experience + Interest = The right equation for moving forward.

· Look for opportunities to apply for volunteer opportunities. Serving your community will give you valuable experience. Whether you are on a non-profit board, engaged with the school board, or active at church-- you can explore what careers you might enjoy without leaping!

You're at a crucial stage in life. Making a career decision that's right for you is critical to your happiness, but don't expect a job to make you happy. Take the time to focus on each step of the equation. To break patterns, we must pay close attention to what those patterns are. We need to assess the demands on our time and take some action at the moment, however small, to change our trajectory.

You owe it to yourself to succeed! Become that success story and the kind of example other people can follow. Do something that you'll be proud of at the end of the day.

Once you've formed a clear picture of those goals in your mind, it's time to start thinking on how to accomplish them with the tools at your disposal. When you are ready to unlock your resources, check out Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Moving Your Career


Was this article helpful? For more exercises like this one, check out my book on success and finding your purpose in life. Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Moving Your Career Forward tells the story of how one woman found the time and energy to overcome the battle for advancement in corporate America.

About Meredith Moore Crosby: As an author, speaker, and mom I share the unwritten rules and the advice of my mentors to evolve your dream job into your dream life, taking control of your time and designing a set of values to lead you onward. Subscribe to the Getting Unstuck mailing list to receive articles like this in your inbox.